The shimmering sparkle of a sunlit sea, in shades from nearly transparent to deep rich blue – that’s the color of the birthstone for March, the aquamarine. Quite literally, the stone’s name means ‘seawater’, derived from the Latin ‘aqua’, water, and ‘mare’ – sea. The aquamarine is technically a beryl – the same gemstone classification as the emerald and several other lesser known stones. None are as romantically named, or have the lore associated with them that the aquamarine does, though.
Aquamarine, say many ancient texts, was the stone used in the foundation of their sacred cities. The Bible mentions it as the foundation stone of the City of Heaven – and why shouldn’t it have been? The sea blue shimmer of the pale stone is as reminiscent of the sky as it is of the ocean. Why shouldn’t we believe that the sky is the aquamarine footing of Heaven itself? From the foot of heaven to the depths of the sea, the aquamarine is treasured – and quite literally.
Its association with the sea and Poseidon made the aquamarine a particular favorite of sailors and fishermen, who often wore the stone on chains or in rings. It was believed to protect travelers on water, and bring them safely back home to their loved ones, and it’s still a traditional gift for lovers who spend time apart from each other. The ancient fishermen went a bit further than wearing aquamarine stones, though. When the seas grew rough and dangerous, many would remove their aquamarine jewelry and toss it into the ocean in the hopes of placating Poseidon and calming the storm.
Perhaps too they hoped to attract mermaids with the shining baubles. What mermaid could resist a gem that captured the play and beauty of the sea in stone? To this day, aquamarines are sometimes called the ‘mermaid’s treasure’, evoking the mystery and mythology of cities under the sea built of stone so clear it seemed to be crystallized ocean.
Aquamarine was known in Biblical times as well, and there are references to ‘sea green beryl’ scattered throughout the Bible. Pieces of aquamarine were counted among the treasures of Titus, and the High Priest of the second temple of the Israelites was said to have worn two aquamarines, one on each shoulder, each engraved with the names of six of the tribes of Israel. If he did, perhaps he found that his words flowed more easily when he wore his regalia, for aquamarines are said to enhance communication and loosen the flow of words and voices. More modern texts on crystal healing claim that aquamarine loosens emotions that get blocked in the throat, allowing singers and orators to infuse their speeches and songs with the fullness of their feelings.
Constancy, truth, clarity and vision are all embodied in the shimmer and sparkle of the lustrous blue-green stone. Those qualities are said to be enhanced when one wears aquamarines, and in medieval times a gift of aquamarine was a traditional way of healing differences between warring married couples and friends. The aquamarine is a stone of sensitivity, believed to enhance empathy for others and help heal old traumas. When one dreams of aquamarines, say dream analysts, it is always a happy omen, for aquamarines presage plenty, happiness and meeting new friends.
In composition, aquamarine is a member of the beryl family, a stone named for its brilliance. It has a hardness of 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it one of the harder stones known. The blue-green coloring is derived from the inclusion of iron in its chemical composition – though it’s certainly far more romantic to believe the stone gains its color from the sea and the sky. While many sources will tell you that pure blue stones are more highly prized than those with hints of green in them, the preference depends on the region. European collectors tend to favor the paler, sea foam variety of aquamarine where the play of blue and green most resembles the play of color in the ocean itself. It may be the difference between the coloring of the Aegean and Mediterranean as opposed to the colder blue waters of the Atlantic.
Besides being the birthstone for the month of March, aquamarine is also the gem that represents the astrological sign Scorpio, with its crystal clarity and bright glitter. Blue aquamarine awakens feelings of affection, trust, friendship and harmony. It is eternal and changeable, but constant like the sea it resembles. Beautiful and prized for its color, clarity and lore, the aquamarine is a fitting gemstone for March, the month when the Earth reawakens.
March’s birthstone, the aquamarine, has been mined throughout the world for thousands of years. The beautiful blue-green stone, from the same mineral family as emeralds, ranges in color from nearly colorless to pure, rich sky blue. Since ancient times, it has been associated with the sea and referred to as the mermaid’s treasure. In addition to being the birthstone for March, the aquamarine is the official gem for the 19th wedding anniversary.
Buying Aquamarine Gemstones
Clarity and color are the main determinants of value for the aquamarine. Because the stone is usually pale, clarity is a major concern. A high quality aquamarine will have no inclusions and be perfectly transparent.
In terms of size, because large aquamarines are regularly found in nature, large size aquamarines (1 carat and above) are comparatively less expensive than many other stones. Larger stones are also more likely to have the richness of color that’s associated with the most valuable aquamarines.
The highest valued aquamarines are pure, clear blue without a hint of green – at least in the U.S. European collectors tend to favor the ‘seafoam’ colors, which shade more toward aqua and sea green. If your preference in color leans toward aqua rather than blue, you’re likely to find some outstanding values in aquamarines.
Because they are so often ‘eye clean’ with no visible inclusions, aquamarines are often cut in long, shallow cuts that allow the color to gather and refract properly. It’s a cut that shows off the aquamarine’s transparency and watery quality.
Aquamarine Gemstone Care
Aquamarines are midway on the Mohs scale for hardness. While they are durable stones, their clarity and the typical shallow cuts used to emphasize aquamarine’s color make frequent cleaning a must to keep the gems looking their best.
Although aquamarines are hard stones (they measure 7 on the Mohs scale), inclusions or faults in the stone could make them vulnerable to breakage or chipping. As with any gem, take them off when you’re doing housework, yard work, exercising or other physical activities that could put the gems at risk of banging and knocking into things. Also avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight with aquamarines to avoid fading their color.
Storing aquamarine jewelry
Light, especially sunlight, can fade the color in natural aquamarine. Store aquamarine jewelry in a dark place, preferably in a separate pouch or cloth in a jewelry box. Be careful not to just toss all your gem jewelry into a box without protection. Gems can scratch each other and metal pieces.
Cleaning aquamarine jewelry
Clean aquamarine jewelry often to get rid of dust or soap that might collect behind the stone in the setting. You can soak the piece in warm water with a little dishwashing soap added, and scrub with a soft toothbrush. Because aquamarines are a single crystal gemstone, you can add a little ammonia to the water for added sparkle.